A 12-Year-Old Designed A Plastic-Cleaning Ship For India’s Oceans
Conversations around climate change are finally getting the space and merit they deserve, particularly in a country as densely populated — and polluted — as India. The impact on India’s marine life and aquatic habitats is an especially alarming reality and cause for immediate concern, as plastic trash continues to choke up our oceans despite remedial measures like the recent ban on single-use plastics. Fortunately, many young activists and groups have felt anger, sympathy, and determination to address the environmental damage to our planet.
One such initiative has been led by Haaziq Kazi, a seventh-grade child prodigy from Pune, India, who was inspired to make a real difference in our waters. At the age of 12, he used his passion for science and technology to invent ERVIS, an intelligent ship that sucks in waste from the surface of the ocean and actually cleans it. While we can shape future policies to reduce our non-biodegradable waste, only a few initiatives exist that can actually make up for lost ground and retroactively improve environmental conditions, like the ever-increasing toxic waste in our seas.
He spoke about ERVIS and the most pressing issues faced by the environment at the 10th edition of the TEDxGateway Conference in Mumbai last December. I spoke with Haaziq about his work, the TED talk and his future (lightly edited for length and clarity). I can say with ease it shed some wonderful insight into a brilliant young mind with a passionate vision to change the world.
PS: What’s the first thing that got you excited about science and the environment?
HK: I realized that the Earth we live in is a beautiful place, and there are wonderful jungles, sea, deserts and beaches that exist in harmony with all the ecosystems that constitute the planet. I love travelling and being in nature, but as I traveled to different parts I witnessed what we as humans have done to create such imbalance and irresponsible damage to our ecosystems.
PS: What inspires you and keeps you this passionate at such a young age?
HK: There is so much inspiration around, one just has to reach out and feel it. I have been fortunate to be guided by the right teachers, friends and social circles and went to a school that encourages us to use science practically. The people I have reached out to have believed in my dream and vision, and supported me in believing I could catalyze change. There are some great people who are doing so many wonderful things around, people likle Boyan Slat, Elon Musk,Chris Anderson, Research scientists at MIT, even the TEDxGateway talk itself. There are so many people who strive daily to make a positive change to this world in whatever capacity they can, and they are a great inspiration to me and motivate me to think outside the box.
PS: What do you think is the biggest threat to our planet today?
HK: I believe ignorance is the biggest threat to our planet today. We live in a world where everybody unknowingly contributes to the detrimental effects on the planet. If we are conscious and judicious in the choices we make, the Earth will be a much better place for all of us — humans, plants, even the elements — to exist within.
PS: What inspired you to create the ocean-cleaning ship ERVIS?
HK: Addressing ocean pollution is a massive challege, of enormous magnitude, and the impact is has on life is appalling. The amount of known waste on the surface of the water is approximately 5 trillion pieces. To visualize that: think of all the plastic in the world lined up — the distance would be the same as from here to the moon, and back, twice. And the plastic isn’t just lined up. It impacts marine life daily. I have seen horrifying and heart-wrenching pictures and videos of animals who have starved to death because they fed on plastic and were unable to get it out of their stomachs, or animals getting tangled in it and damaging themselves fatally. I had to do something! I decided I wanted to clean it, and came up with the idea of the ship that could clean oceans.
PS: What was your favourite part of the process? What were some big challenges you had to overcome?
HK: My favorite part of the process was to work with some brilliant minds, scientists and researchers who guided me in making the project more realistic, for instance using new-generation fuel like RNG and hydrogen, or using a design inspired by ships like VINDSKIP.
It was hard initially to figure out what it was I wanted ERVIS to do and doing research on the magnitude of the waste problem. I found that ships actualy are a big source of the waste, because they use and dispose off sulphur in the water itself, so building a ship to clean the waste of other ships was a challenge.
PS: What impact do you hope ERVIS will have in the future? How would you like to see technology like this develop?
HK: Analysts estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in oceans than fish.
I see ERVIS as a catalyst of change that can prove the prediction of 2050 wrong. I want to see multiple ERVISes manning the oceans and cleaning the waste in them, with like-minded people helping and contributing to it.
PS: How can we get other young people to care about these issues and actively change their behaviour towards a solution?
HK: All the information is out there; one just has to be conscious of it. Young people have to be aware of the choices they make and bring that awareness to people around them. Just creating awareness goes a long way towards solving the problem. There was a study recently which showed that microplastic is very prevalent in the salt we consume, so next time we eat food maybe we can ask ourselves a question, are we consuming the same waste we ended up disposing carelessly? If we aren’t the ones who care about the world, the next generations are going inherent one that is definitely not very pleasant.